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All Creatures Great and Small star left 'terribly upset' over tough exit

Carol Drinkwater played Helen Herriot in the BBC series

Sharnaz Shahid
Deputy Online Editor
May 6, 2024
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All Creatures Great and Small has enjoyed recent success following its reboot on Channel 5, however, the beloved family drama first aired between 1978 to 1990 on the BBC. 

One of the original stars, Carol Drinkwater, has reflected on her time filming the Northern series, admitting she was left "terribly upset" by the way BBC bosses dealt with her decision to leave. 

Carol Drinkwater hold book© Shutterstock
Carol Drinkwater starred in the BBC version of All Creatures Great and Small

The 76-year-old played one of the main characters, Helen Herriot, in series one, two and three before she was replaced by the late Lynda Bellingham.

"I'd given everything I could and I couldn't think where else I could take the role, because there was no more material," she said of her decision during her appearance on Alan Titchmarsh Show on Sunday. 

"I wasn't leaving in any kind of spiteful thing. The BBC was so angry with me, they put a ban on using me." 

Rachel Shenton and Nicholas Ralph in All Creatures Great and Small© Channel 5
Rachel Shenton and Nicholas Ralph star in the reboot of All Creatures Great and Small

She added: "So they re-cast and another actress got the role. I was terribly upset because it was a wonderful role and would have been very good for me. I must say now, looking back on my career, it's one of the few things in my life I would do differently, and I wouldn't have left."

All Creatures Great and Small is based on author James Herriot's beloved novel collection, and has since become an autumn TV staple since the reboot first premiered back in 2020, with each series offering uplifting tales from the Yorkshire Dales. 

When Channel 5 released the reboot version, it offered Carol a glimmer of hope she may be cast as Mrs Pumphrey. However, the role was given to the late Diana Rigg, with Patricia Hodge taking over the role in the second series. 

The actress explained: "I wanted to play Mrs Pumphrey and they didn't give it to me. They gave it to Diana Rigg."

Anna Madeley, Callum Woodhouse, Nicholas Ralph, Rachel Shenton and Samuel West in All Creatures Great and Small © Channel 5
All Creatures Great and Small returned to Channel 5 in 2020

Since leaving All Creatures Great and Small in 1985, Carol has gone on to pen several books, including children's titles. More recently, the actress-turned-author fronted her own series called Carol Drinkwater's Secret Provence.

All Creatures Great and Small is available on Channel 5.

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